Ely schools shouldn’t play second fiddle

Across the Range right now several school districts are in the midst of major building projects that will prepare them to meet the needs of teaching students into the future. Why shouldn’t the students at Ely schools have the same opportunities?
Major projects at Mt. Iron, Mesabi East and Grand Rapids have been moved forward and are either under construction or about to be. Ely could join that group with a project that would replace our lost gymnasium space and connect the Washington, Memorial and perhaps even the Industrial Arts buildings.
With the Ely Regional Community Complex making the decision to move elsewhere, the door is open for the school district to put together its own plan.
Just what is or isn’t in that plan can be determined along the way. What’s needed now is the direction from the school board and administration to set the wheels in motion as well as being true advocates.
This could very well be the most important school district project in the past 50 years (or more). We’ve already heard one administrator talk about the importance of keeping students inside as they walk from one building to the other, whether it be for music class or for lunch or phy ed.
There was a time when students were able to use the underground tunnels instead of putting on coats, hats, mittens and boots once or several times during the day. Those tunnels were never handicap accessible, another situation that could be resolved with this project.
Our advice to the district is to think big. This is likely going to be the only bond referendum we will see in the next decade or longer. Let’s see what else could be included.
We lost the JFK cafeteria which was used for all kinds of school and after-school functions. Our current cafeteria space is lacking in many ways. This new facility could include new cafeteria space as well.
Think big. There’s been a community interest in putting in some type of outdoor track facility. Not too many schools run on cinders any more. Several northern Minnesota districts are in the process of installing multi-purpose athletic facilities with artificial turf. Ely could do the same.
If Mesabi East can do it. If Mt. Iron can do it. If Proctor and Grand Rapids can do it. Why not Ely?
We’re certainly eligible for special IRRRB funds that have been set aside for major school projects. Let’s put a project together that looks toward the future and talk to our legislators about getting the same type of IRRRB assistance other schools are getting.
We’re proud of our school district here in Ely. Bond referendums have seen especially strong support from the voters in the Ely school district, maybe due in part to all property taxpayers contributing to the payback. With cabin owners included, the cost is distributed across a much greater range than an operating levy.
On Monday night the board will begin the process of looking at what could be. There will be a study session at 6 p.m. with the “corridor concept” on the agenda.
Our hope is one day we’ll look back at Monday’s meeting as the start of the transformation of Ely’s school campus.
A day where thinking big led to big improvements and the groundwork being laid for a better place for our students to learn and grow.